November 16, 1994
Interviewer: Rheba Massey
Ross Bradley was born in Oak Creek, Colorado, in 1916 and was just 17 when he enlisted in the Navy in 1933. While serving on the USS Astoria, he saw Hawaii, most of the Pacific Islands, and Sydney, Australia. On the Vincennes, he toured Finland, Sweden, France and England. He re-enlisted on board the USS New Orleans in 1939, and the ship was assigned to Pearl Harbor. He was aboard ship on the morning of December 7, 1941. "The Japanese appeared with red balls under their wings and we had no inkling that anything like that was in the air." Fortunately many of the carriers were at sea at the time.
Bradley, a Chief Boatswains Mate, was at his battle station in "sky forward" during the attack. After the bombing and torpedoing, the crew worked until sunset on rescuing men in the water and then went out to sea. They engaged the Japanese at the Battle of the Coral Sea where they rescued about 500 men from the USS Lexington, a large carrier damaged beyond repair.
Then, Bradley recalls in a matter-of-fact tone, "we went to the Battle of Midway and engaged the Japanese. That was victorious for us. At one time we were underway 120 days without stopping the screws on the ship." Other ships provided groceries, fuel and ammunition.
Maintaining a constant routine and frequent training aboard ship ensured that in case of attack, men would respond automatically without panic. During an attack, the only men on topside were in turrets firing from their anti-air craft gun mounts. Most of the personnel were protected below decks.
Their greatest threat was the kamikaze planes they encountered at the Battle of the Leyte Gulf and in Okinawa. "It is very difficult to dodge someone who is determined he is going to crash into your ship with bombs hanging underneath his plane." Bradley was a Lieutenant in command of a Landing Ship Medium in the initial invasion of Leyte, when 11 kamikazes attacked the destroyers and landing ships which had just off-loaded troops and materials. Bradley's ship was sunk; six of his men were lost, and two destroyers were damaged.
He was also on a cruiser torpedoed during the battle of Tasaferonga, losing about a third of the ship and 178 men. The commander managed to get the ship to a port at Savo Island. Repairs were made to the bow so that the ship could cruise to Sydney, Australia. Here further repairs were made enabling the ship to make it to Bremerton, Washington, where a newly manufactured bow was attached. The ship was back with the Pacific Fleet in about eight months. Most repairs could be completed in three months. Ships which could not be repaired were sold for scrap. Gillette bought many to make razor blades!
Infrequent leaves and difficulty in communicating regularly made marriages difficult for Navy wives. His own marriage was a casualty of the war years. He was at sea or in training from 1939-1945. During these five years, he was able to see his wife and three daughters for only two ten-day leaves.
After the Japanese surrendered, Bradley stayed in the Pacific and traveled. He later commanded a Navy freight ship, hauling cargo to and from Guam. He also commanded a ship in China and participated in the initial U.S. invasion of Korea. His first shore duty was as a recruiting officer in Montana; then he served in Washington, D. C. He was engaged in salvage work on the USS Escape out of San Juan, Puerto Rico, recovering the nose cones that were used in biological experiments before man was put into space. He was commanding officer of a Naval Reserve Training Center in Colorado Springs, and finished his 30 year career with NORAD in that city.
He had a happy second marriage and enjoyed retirement in Fort Collins. "The Navy was very good for me," he concluded. "I hope I was good for the Navy."
Preserving the history of Fort Collins, Colorado & the Cache la Poudre region